There are 27 countries in the European Union, but 50 on the continent of Europe. They are all culturally different, asserting their nationalities in a variety of different ways. Some have had to cobble together that identity after centuries of fluctuating borders and regularly being invaded by their neighbors. Others have had a discrete setup for a lot longer, meaning that they have symbols that are recognized by most of their inhabitants going back centuries.
Probably the most famous way that countries assert a national identity is through a flag, but it's not the only option. Countries also pick food, coats of arms, and all manner of imagery to represent them - including a national animal. Not all of them have a national animal, but the vast majority of European nations do. Some of them share the same animal or something very similar, while others have chosen something highly unique or even mythological. Some choose predators and aggressors, while others prefer to highlight animals that are useful, beautiful, friendly, or cute. Oddly enough, quite a few of them have picked an animal that is not native to their own country, perhaps because it was part of their royal coat of arms.
Do you know which animal belongs to which country? Let's find out!
This shaggy European bison is the national animal of Belarus. An Eastern European country that was in the USSR, Belarus has been independent since 1990.
The White Wagtail is the symbol of Latvia. It is a passerine bird, meaning that it has feet adapted for perching. It's also a migrating bird, spending winters in warmer climes.
The bulldog is the symbol of Britain. This is because, like the British, it's admittedly lazy, it loves a nice biscuit, and if you mess with it, you will be shocked how strong its bite turns out to be for its size.
The white stork is an elegant bird with red legs. Happily, its population is actually going up in the wild at the moment, and it is rated not at all endangered.
The lion is not native to most of Europe, but a lot of European nations do love it! Macedonia is that rare thing, a European nation that actually does have native lions, which is why it can claim it for a national animal without it being a little odd.
The lynx is very endangered because of its amazing fur, which makes a wonderful coat. If you are lucky enough to inherit a really old one (that doesn't involve killing a new lynx), good for you, but whatever you do, don't buy a new one!
The running of the bulls in Pamplona is an annual spectale in which at least a few people get gored. It's very controversial, and animal rights activists are doing their best to put an end to it. In the meantime, the goring videos tend to be popular.
The fjord horse is a fine animal indeed! It is the symbol of Norway, where its stocky frame is ideal for going up and down steep slopes.
The wolf is one of the several symbols of Serbia. Serbia is the biggest Yugoslavian country and used to dominate its neighbors.
Moldova is a small eastern country represented by the aurochs. A kind of bison, the aurochs is a fierce creature and not to be trifled with no matter what.
The grey wolf is the symbol of Turkey. It has been co-opted by far-right nationalists, which is a fate that befalls national animals in a number of countries.
Holland has a lot of coasts, making the Black-Tailed Godwit a fine choice. It's a shorebird that loves marshes and plenty of wetland.
The turul never existed, but it is still Hungary's symbol. It is a giant mythical falcon, similar to a roc.
You can't get to Iceland without flying or swimming, so this is a fitting choice. The Gyrfalcon is the biggest falcon species and loves tundra, making Iceland's icy expanses perfect for it.
The dolphin is a fine fit for Greece's beautiful islands and lovely weather. It's also friendly and sociable, much like the Greeks!
The brown bear is a symbol of Russia, you say? Finland says fine, but if Russia can take their provinces, then Finland gets to take Russia's symbols!
The Faroe Islands are part of Denmark but have their own symbol. This bird is pretty cute with its orange beak and legs. It's also the bearer of a remarkably specific name: the Eurasian Oystercatcher. That is because (and we must offer a spoiler alert here) it is from Eurasia, and it catches oysters.
This sheep is called the Cypriot mouflon. It is a wild sheep that is believed to be the common ancestor for all domestic sheep breeds.
The Gallic rooster is the ultimate French symbol. It's beautiful, it knows how to strut, and you can cook it about 1,200 ways in garlic and butter.
The barn swallow is the most common kind of swallow. One way to see them up close is to walk through a wildflower meadow around sunset; your feet will stir up insects they like to eat, and the swallows will dart in circles around you as you go, looking for the food you have so kindly made available for them!
Some nations go for lions, bears, falcons, or other aggressive and predatory species. Croatia went for this utterly adorable little fellow, the pine marten - which says many nice things about their culture and also explains why Serbia (lion) has been able to successfully invade them so often.
The mute swan is a very Danish bird indeed. It is elegant, understated, and beautiful - with an awful lot of very hard work and excellent design going on under the surface.
The heraldic lion is not a real lion, but that doesn't stop it being a national symbol. It is depicted in the Belgian national colors and has been the national symbol since 1837.
Here we have another heraldic lion, this time from the Czech Republic. It harks back to the royal coat of arms of the kingdom of Bohemia.
This bird is known as the blue rock thrush. It's native to a vast swath of the world from the Mediterranean all the way to China, but Malta named it their special animal.
The goldcrest is known as "king of the birds" in European folklore. This is because of its distinctive golden crown.
The white-tailed sea eagle is the national animal of Poland. It's a massive eagle which has a wingspan of eight feet!
The Eurasian blackbird is a type of thrush. Though the birds themselves are typically dark with a brownish sheen in the sunlight, their eggs are green.
The red deer is the symbol of Ireland. There are four main kinds of wild deer in Ireland these days, but this is the only one that is native to the country.
Germany and Austria share many cultural signifiers and this is one of them. It is a black eagle and its wingspan reaches as large as 7.5ft.
Monaco is small and likes to break certain rules - most of their economy is based around legal gambling, being a tax haven, and, to be frank, international money laundering. That's why a cheeky animal like the rabbit is a great symbol!
The olm is a strange animal and a very interesting one. It is an exclusively cave-dwelling salamander that is blind and very pale. Slovenia is doing a lot to protect its precious olms, including making them a national symbol.
The brown bear is a symbol common to several countries, like the lion. Ukraine has adopted it as a symbol of renewal, as it wakes from hibernating every spring.
The golden eagle is the most famous eagle species. It can live in many places and is thus not considered endangered.
You might think this is a Gallic rooster, but it is not. It is a Portuguese rooster. That means it clucks in Portuguese, not French, and is the symbol of Portugal.
Cattle is the symbol of Andorra, a small and often overlooked nation between France and Spain. There are plenty of kinds of cow all over the world, but not everyone appreciates them like the Andorrans do.
The two-headed eagle is the heraldic symbol of Montenegro. This little Yugoslavian nation does not have a real animal symbol.
The Welsh dragon is a fine creature that appears on the Welsh flag. It's the battle standard of Celtic leaders and supposedly of King Arthur.
These are all very little countries, so perhaps they do not think they are big enough for a national animal. We suggest that they could certainly have a nice little one!
Scotland's unicorn goes all the way back to William I in the 12th century. It appears on the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, united with the English lion.